The Indian Premier League (IPL), the annual summer cricket carnival in India, is being targeted over the 'misutilisation' of water. When Maharashtra is facing a severe drought condition, is it fair to use gallons of water to make wickets for the cricket matches worth?
Apparently, this connection looks simple. At a time when the farmers are struggling in their fields, using water in cricket fields looks a misplaced priority. But does cancelling of cricket matches give us an easy solution to the problem? Or are we just conveniently picking a big event as an easy reason behind a problem which has deeper roots?
In India, we do not abide by the culture of compensating. If the BCCI is using gallons of water for the IPL which itself is a big industry and helps thousands earn a livelihood (not speaking about the players), then as a part of the corporate social responsibility, it also has the duty to help in artificially recharging the groundwater and rainwater harvesting.
Have the cricket board authorities thought about this important responsibility that the society expects from it?
In fact, every big industry which uses groundwater for its day-to-day functioning should ensure that it compensates the water used for its productivity. Just like there are norms over dumping industrial wate into water bodies, there should also be norms for conservation and recharging water.
But this debate is now focusing more on the IPL's 'unethical' side of gobbling up the water in a drought-hit state. Maharashtra's drought problem is not a new phenomenon and research have shown the man-made side of the crisis which has worsened over the years (the IPL, on the other hand, started only in 2008) and hence there is a requirement to look into the problem beyond the IPL.
This form of debate does nothing but encourages a false resistance to an entertainment activity which has an economic significance and distracts one from the search of actual solutions to the problem. Water needs to used judiciously of we really think of reaching out to those who are facing severe drought conditions in Maharashtra.
The state government, on its part, has put up a good show in initiating steps to regulate both the supply and consumption of water in the backdrop of the crisis. Instead of focusing on instant solutions that seem logical to the TRP-thirsty media, the need is to focus on deep and long-term solutions to tackle this problem.
Maharashtra has the highest number of dams in the country (3,712 including big, small and medium ones) but yet its irrigation coverage was an appalling 18 per cent in 2009-10. Delays and overrunning of costs have plagued the projects in the state, resulting into serious dought conditions year after year.
According to South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), the drought in the state in 2012-13 was caused by mismanagement of water, corrupt practices, water-intensive agricultural patterns and lack of a long-term planning to deal with drought conditions. Watering of IPL pitches was never a part of the reason for the disaster.
For the droughts in Maharashtra, building big but unviable dams, incorrect cropping patterns (too much water went into sugarcane cultivation while farming suffered), diverting water on a non-priority basis and mismanagement of water by the local authorities and the negligence of the local water systems are the main reasons, said the SANDRP.
Why didn't Maharashtra authorities stop cultivating sugarcane and other water-intensive crops in drought-affected parts of the state? Will our media raise these issues and not bark up the wrong tree by only blaming the IPL for Maharashtra's woes?